With the opioid crisis hitting home for far too many people, stories about addiction are no longer in the shadows. Even with addiction being talked about more frequently in the media, nothing prepares you for how to respond when someone you know and care about may need treatment. It’s completely normal to feel confused and concerned. If you’re worried that your loved one may need treatment for addiction, it’s important to learn all you can about this disease so you’re prepared to help in the best way possible.
Know the Signs of Addiction
Since you’re here, you probably already have concerns about your loved one, but you may also have doubts about what’s going on. This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are some of the most common signs that your loved one’s substance use really is a problem:
- They have tried quitting use of drugs or alcohol without succeeding, and possibly even more than once.
- They have mental health symptoms, such as being agitated, anxious, or not acting like themselves.
- They engage in reckless behavior.
- They seem to withdraw from life, including people they care about and activities they used to enjoy.
- You see changes to their outward appearance.
- They have physical symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea or nausea, especially after trying to quit using substances.
Educate Yourself About Addiction
When you see these signs in someone you care about, the first thing you want to do is help. Before you can step in, though, it’s crucial to learn about addiction in order to truly understand what your loved one is experiencing. The American Psychological Association defines addiction as “a chronic disorder with biological, psychological, social and environmental factors influencing its development and maintenance.”
Addiction is a disease that actually changes the person’s brain, so fighting it isn’t an easy battle. Your loved one needs patience, and they need you to understand that it isn’t a moral failing on their part. You should also know that addiction is chronic, which means that, while treatment and recovery are entirely possible, there isn’t a quick fix or a single solution. The New York Times suggests that, just like cancer, addiction is complex and requires multiple ongoing modes of treatment. Helping the person you care about get into treatment is the first step, and then they need your continued support throughout recovery.
Help Your Loved One Get Treatment
Even with this knowledge, don’t try to intervene on your own. Talking to an addiction counselor is one of the best ways to get help understanding addiction. They can also help you understand enabling and how to make sure you aren’t doing anything that causes more harm than good. When you approach the topic of treatment with your loved one, be sure to talk to them when they haven’t been using.
It can be hard on you seeing the person you care about struggle, but even when it is trying, the best thing you can do for them is treat them with compassion. Some people confuse compassion with enabling, but Psychology Today explains how compassion can actually be the key to helping them heal. Compassion establishes trust, which is a foundation for how your loved one responds to your help.
Be Prepared for Pushback
Talking to someone you’re concerned may need help for addiction is never easy, and there are several reasons why they may push back. Your loved one may not be ready to admit they have a problem, they may fear the consequences of facing addiction (and any underlying problems), and they may feel embarrassed or awkward about it. If they respond this way, be patient, keep communication open, and let them know you will support them through treatment.
This is a conversation you probably wish you never needed to have. Addiction is painful, and it’s hard on you too. It may not be easy, but by educating yourself and understanding the best way to talk with your loved one, you’re doing exactly what they need and encouraging them to take that essential first step.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Thank you to Constance Ray over at Recovery Well for writing this post!
Check out the Recovery Well website for more resources.